This year’s AOR tournament brought 30 people with 51 player starts over the three heats and final. The demo was again somewhat popular drawing a small crowd to both. For players that opted out of playing AOR, we had our three every other year Canadians show up this year, so if you were hiding from them this year, come back next – we will need the numbers!! We again had several people come to the demo with no prior experience with the game and then play in the heats. I would have to say that most people at the demos this year were folks who were trying to reacquaint themselves with the game.
On this note, I plan on making playing the tournament even more user friendly next year. I will assign new players to tables where there will be one or more designated coaches or at least people willing to help the new player out. I will also try to accommodate people who aren’t interested in being at a table where this is going on. Both of these measures will be to better meet the B class designation of the event for a 6 hour long game. Another note to people interested in trying the game, if you have not played something like Civilization or Manifest Destiny and/or have not checked out how AOR works, showing up to the demo then expecting to play in the heats is totally fine and I actively encourage it. As previously noted I will make more accommodations to folks who do this. However, like with any long complicated game it could take a little while before you get the hang of things and that could mean you could be swimming upstream for the last few hours of the game.
This being my third year running the tournament I decided to make some alterations to better fit the tournament model. The hard stop at 5hrs and 45mins was almost not needed, until the last preliminary game when players were able to finish their purchases in the second to last turn then immediately move on to final card play. Most games finished in under 5 hours or just slightly over! The new optional house rule was used in 6 of the preliminary games. This rule would allow the table to move onto the 2nd and/or 3rd epoch if at the end of the draw/buy cards phase there was exactly 0 cards in the deck. Despite many tables using the rule, it only was actually used once and did prevent that game from pulling into a hard stop. I would also like to note that the three games which didn’t use the rule were all because of Steve Spisak. As it happens, all of Steve’s games finished in well under the time limit even when a situation did develop in one game where there were zero cards in the draw pile after the buy cards phase.
Tournament etiquette is something I will have to consider moving towards next year. I’ve been trying to resist the temptation to micro manage all games as I believe much should be decided and agreed on by the table. But, with several issues related to dice rolls, ship upgrade timing, card play, mistaken/illegal attacks and cathedral usage, I might end up making some things clearer to next year's participants. I think considering that this is a B tournament, players should be offering some flexibility to each other in the case of innocent mistakes or things that were overlooked accidentally. Penalizing based on these factors doesn’t, and shouldn’t, feel like the right way to play. This I think overall leads to less animosity and generally better play. I would always prefer to win when everyone is playing at their best and not because of a dumb mistake. In a competitive environment, knowing not to make a mistake is part of the skill of any game. Striking a balance between the two in our tournament is tricky!
The typically large 1st heat had 21 players divided in to three 5 player and one 6 player game. Here we saw the largest margin wins again at the hand of veteran players. Wade Campbell’s table conceded three hours in when they were out of resources to pull him back exhausting all of the hammers on him. Wade’s early lead with Interest and Profit as Paris led to the situation. This left the gm to contemplate how to score this game. Since the tie breaker after wins is percentage won by, an incomplete game may or may not represent an actual game. In this particular game the scores were a normal spread for a blowout win but still, the question stands – what happens when everyone concedes in a multiplayer game? The answer for next year may be award the winner a 25% win. Second place would receive 75% of the winners score and reduce by 15 for each additional player. This should give enough incentive for someone to fight for a better second place score before just giving up. Also for the winner, a 25% win has been good enough for the final at least the last three years. It should be noted that last year’s champion, Harald Henning, was 2nd place in that game, and this was his first and last AOR game in the 2018 tournament.
New comer to the tournament last year, Jay Spencer was able to secure a 9.21% win over his son, Matt Spencer in a five player game. Rounding up 3rd, 4th, and 5th at this table were WBC heavy weights Kevin Youells, Doug Galullo and Peter Eldridge. The win would end up being enough for Jay to make the final by only .25%!
Warren Day rode Cathedral to the win in a six player game by a mere 8.27% over his brother Michael Day. This game also saw the only female participant of the AOR tournament, Molly Auerbach. Molly is an experienced AOR player with at least a dozen games under her belt but, bid zero and was saddled with Hamburg who she had never played before. While I believe firmly that Hamburg is a very winnable capital, if they fall behind early in capturing doms in their home area, they will struggle in the long run. Molly’s Hamburg suffered that fate in her only heat of the tournament. In this game the players were treated to Steve Spisak’s copy of AOR which is so worn down you can barely tell the different between Venice, Paris and Hamburg.
Nick Henning was able to stay alive despite being hit by everything in the deck including a 6-1 war that he lost! Ok, not only did he stay alive he won by 33%!
If there is anyone who is a fan of the “late night” heat of AOR speak now, because this GM is no night owl and the schedule for next year will actually be different, unless I hear otherwise that we will have a bigger turnout. We had 11 people come to this heat with only 2 unique entries – Mark Smith and Ron Clement. For anyone paying attention this is a slight improvement over last year’s turnout of 9.
The Canadian contingent brought their second contender closer towards qualifying for the final with Steve Spisak winning by 12% over his buddy Ron Clement.
New comer Shiv Chupra was able to defeat a pair of former champions by only 8.96% with Wade Campbell and Mark Smith coming in 2nd and 3rd. Shiv came to the first demo not knowing how to play! I guess his game the previous night taught him some lessons. The win would end up putting Shiv in the first alternate spot and not quite enough to make the final.
In one four player game Matt Spencer started off strong with a T1 Crusades player as Barcelona. True veteran con goer Barry Barnes must have seemed intimidating, since Matt also chose to play civil war on Barry’s Venetians also on the first turn. This started a chain of events that would lead Barry to declare it was one of his worst AoR performances ever. He was able to only draw one leader and commodities he wasn’t able to cash in or trade. In a very miserable game Barry drew Famine and being only 4 spaces from the bottom of the track with no grain, decided to eliminate himself by going into chaos. Matt was not able to pull far enough ahead to blow out Wade Campbell and Ron Clement who hammered him for the rest of the game. The pair were able to beat him down enough for Ron to win and Wade to take second. This is the second time in a row all three Canadian players made the final.
At another 4 player game, things were tight between Steve Spisak, Jeff Ridenour, and Eric Monte. Eric had a perceived edge with a strong start as Barcelona despite some weak card draws and a little help from some consistent Wool plays from Chris Matice playing Venice and no one really interested in fighting for wool. One memorable play was when Jeff playing Paris, who was having a rough go about half way through the game, played Columbus early in Epoch 2 with 15$ to protect him. Eric had been holding a large hand filled with events, including Papal Decree. Seeing that he would not be able to buy Ocean Nav with Jeff’s leader, he chose to ban exploration instead with Papal Decree. Also, on that turn Black Death hit Genoa and Venice’s home area, and Pirates/Vikings knocked down some area 6 spaces. A critical thing was that the deck was completely empty and could have recycled if Paris or Venice bought a card! So all the stuff would have to come up in Epoch 3. Steve would end up winning during final card play with a pair of spice payouts with industry, even though Eric and Jeff had an edge on advances. This ended up being the closest game of the tournament with Steve winning by 1.57%. However, with a win already in the bag, this would propel Steve to top qualifier.
In a six player game that went off the rails and was the only game that had a hard finish, Doug Mercer was able to best 2017 finalist Rob Barnes with a 12% win to punch his ticket to the final. Rob and Doug bought all the advances!
Things seemed off to a mostly normal start. Bids were 6, 4, and 4 zeros! This bid of 6 was the highest bid of the tournament and Steve’s only bid above zero…as we’ll see his starting card of Armor really spoke to him! Barcelona was chosen first by Steve, Venice next by Nick and the roll off ensued. In the end Ron picked Genoa, Wade took Paris, Doug picked London, and Jay who rolled the lowest was saddled with Hamburg who he had never played before. Deal making ensued and Genoa/Venice made a safe deal, Paris did their thing, Barcelona bought a boat, London set up for a turn 2 heavens.
Jay actually wanted to play Hamburg which is why he bid zero. He is a relative new comer to AOR having learned the game at last year’s tournament and since then has only played 3 and 4 player games. Hamburg has the most varied options for starting and Jay decided to buy Caravan only and no boat. This choice ended up having a big effect on the early game when Hamburg realized this meant they wouldn’t be able to take the northern timber or metal on Turn 2, after making the normal trade with London, and decided to play Papal Decree to stunt the growth of his neighbor. London took this well and even proclaimed that he had a hammer, Civil War, but knew it was a bad choice to play it on poor Hamburg who would already be a turn behind the pack. When Hamburg played Rebellion on the timber space on Turn 3, one of only a couple spaces London took on Turn 2, London quickly played Civil War on the Germans who took the token loss. London even commented later that this was an idiotic move. However, this gm knows, sometimes you have to get your point across. Civil War compounded with Holy Indulgence and a bid of 7, brought poor Hamburg down to a single token for turn 3!!!
On Turn 2, Paris intended to make some ground on Venice but the satellite in Salzburg proved too much for him and was only able to take the wine spot, which he already had one token in. This lead to him strapped for cash on Turn 3 and realizing he had too big a hand, Wade played Prince Henry (ocean nav and IR) in the box with no intention of it being used.
Turn 3 saw one of the first big plays by Barcelona with a high token bid and Armor, his first card. Steve was able to take a decent amount of small doms, avoid areas 5/6 and as a result, have a killer income.
On Turn 4, Columbus was played in the box – never to be used by anyone!!
Towards the end of the second epoch was a turning point for Barcelona. Most of his early gains had been retaken and with two spice territories and two spice cards, contemplated playing both for an influx of cash. He decided instead to hold onto the cards for one more turn and go on a spice run with his epoch 2 military advantage. The 4 spice territory in area 5 was taken by Genoa via Cathedral so Barcelona could now roll as many times as he liked. He went from one spice to four, bid early, and paid out for 288.
In the end Barcelona was able to edge Paris and Genoa because of their misery despite having leads in advances. Additionally, having industry going into the last turn and a diversity of spaces, led to significant cash gains and let Steve claim his first AOR Championship.
Final finishes were Steve Spisak – Barcelona, Wade Campbell – Paris, Doug Mercer – London, Ron Clement – Genoa, Nick Henning – Venice, and Jay Spencer – Hamburg.
We hope to see everyone next year!!